Drupal

Headless Drupal: The Ultimate Guide

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When interacting with a website, a user gets more than experience (UX). Interface and API content is of prime importance. Using technologies like Angular JS, React JS, and so on that can deliver content to the end consumer at the same speed as applications.

Headless Drupal (or decoupled Drupal) is one such tool that is gaining popularity for its innovative ability to deliver outstanding digital experiences. Many well-known companies have taken this path, offering their customers a unique interactive interface and fast loading sites. Thanks to the API-oriented architecture, content can be launched and displayed anywhere.

With the further development of digital products, Headless CMS is likely to surpass traditional WordPress or Joomla in popularity. According to Anyforsoft's experience, the future belongs to "headless" systems.

What is Headless CMS?

CMS in its usual sense combines the content and appearance of the website. Most monolithic systems are "linked". That is, CMA and CDA are being combined. In the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of systems that try to be more flexible in their way of delivering content.

The decoupled CMS does not contain it, does not deal with views, templates, structure, or design of the site. It does not associate content with a specific output (such as rendering a web page) but provides it as data via an API. The concept allows you to attract customers through multiple channels with personalized content.

Headless architecture is reactive, so it stays idle until a request is sent to the content. The structure is really flexible, content is treated as data, and designers work in specially adapted environments in real-time. Headless Drupal commerce is extremely agile offering a variety of options to deliver a better user experience. 

Headless CMS

Source

What is Headless Drupal?

Usually, Drupal is used to deliver all the components of a website. The CMS provides a mechanism for creating and storing structured data, including an interface that allows you to add and edit content and customize configurations.

The concept of Drupal headless CMS involves rendering from the outside. In such systems, data is not converted into HTML pages, but into HAL, XML, JSON, and other files. Thanks to this, we can create and publish content for various screens and technologies, such as Alexa, Fitbit trackers, or Digital Signage systems.

How are Decoupled Drupal Websites Created?

A headless website has a separate interface connected via an API.

Drupal can be decoupled in two ways:

 1. Progressively 

You can use the Drupal rendering system with the simultaneous use of javascript frameworks (React and Angular). For developers, this approach is about decoupling a js framework-based page, maintaining the speed and unlocked assemblers. And for designers, there are contextualized interfaces, content workflow, previews, and other features available.

  2. Fully

This is when the frontend and backend are fully decoupled, replacing the branch theme layer with another frontend technology. In this case, front and back are located in different domains/subdomains and may well be considered different applications.

For backend

We recommend using Drupal 8 or 9 because the 7th version implies less interaction with REST services. Include the selected module t and immediately create manipulating any features and views. However, Drupal 8/9 does not provide a very convenient format, and for this reason, we recommend using JSONAPI.

For frontend

Any js framework can be used (for example, React or Vue). There is no significant difference, but the second is better suited when you need to follow clear instructions.

Server

If you plan to deploy your site via FTP and don't require SSR, any hosting will do. Otherwise, we recommend using a virtual server with Node.js installed. Thus, you can build the frontend directly on the server, use client routing and SPA.

At AnyforSoft, we do it this way:

Place index.html in site.com, which loads styles and scripts. The data is taken from backend.site.com. In this case, links are processed in the frontend, and not on the server. One page is loaded, which determines how to display the rest of the data. Read also: How to decouple Drupal with Gatsby

Why Use Such Drupal?

The benefits of headless Drupal are obvious:

  1. Support for multiple consumer channels. The site delivers content to mobile apps, TV, etc. Instead of building a website in isolation, you can create content that is reusable in the front-end stage.
  2. Reusable content. Decoupling is a way of reusing and redesigning content as it is not tied to the actual site design and is only displayed on it.
  3. Accelerated development. Teams can work on site components at the same time in sync, so time-to-market can be dramatically reduced.
  4. Increased performance. A modern JS interface can be fast through the use of multithreaded and asynchronous frameworks. The load on the server is reduced, and some pages are processed without any requests.
  5. Reduced rework cost. Once the site is decoupled, you can launch a completely new design without making any changes to the backend if you have a well-designed API. Creating a new interface requires much less work than rebuilding the entire site or migrating.

Everything related to themes will have to be created in javascript. Of course, this is not difficult due to ready-made components. You don't need to spend time on the layout because you should be well aware that many modules come with styles.

Drawbacks

Surely, there are definite downsides to the Drupal headless architecture, including:

  1. High development cost. Decoupling is almost always more expensive than building a traditional site at the cost of additional infrastructure.
  2. Increased complexity. If you only want a website, splitting is a confusing way. Complex infrastructure makes sense when you are building an API to serve multiple consumers.
  3. Higher risks of over-engineering. Some tasks are especially difficult in sandboxed environments, such as previewing.
  4. A shift in thinking is required. Designers don’t create “pages”, but reusable, well-structured content.
  5. Less page control. Rearranging the page and specifying where the content is displayed is trickier. 
  6. Managing multiple systems is more difficult. Since the CMS does not work with the presentation layer, you will need to create some functionality, such as website navigation. Designers need to get used to the fact that content is independent of the website.

Who Uses Decoupled Drupal Methods

Below are examples of implementing a headless web architecture using Drupal:

  1. NBC television network. The Drupal 7 site, which rendered content in a typical way, was later redesigned to be completely isolated.
  2. Hotwire travel site. It is a completely independent Drupal-based hotel search service for providing API data to a JavaScript front-end application.
  3. MSNBC cable channel. Although the channel used Drupal 7 to render the basic structure of the pages, the data was embedded into the pages using AngularJS.

Similar frontend solutions were also used by: 

You can create such a site yourself, but, as practice shows, it is safer to trust the professionals. Contact our Anyforsoft development team if you still have any questions regarding Drupal Headless solutions

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